When PTC announced that Magic Mountain Man would be a club race, George and I decided to make it our first Olympic distance triathlon. At the time, the bike course was a point to point and it wasn’t too intimidating. Not only did we get it for a good price ($86) it was close to home (so we could sleep in our own bed) and we knew there would be some fellow club members racing the event. So back in August we took the plunge and signed up!
Fast forward to last week. For my birthday we went to Disneyland on Sunday. By Monday evening I started to feel a little tickle in my throat that eventually became a sore throat. On my actual birthday, Tuesday, I already had the day off from work and relaxed. Wednesday I turned into a mess and couldn’t even go to work. I was coughing, stuffed up and was hoping the little rest I would get would help. I didn’t leave the house at all on Wednesday and was loading up with Airborne and cough medicine.Thursday I was able to go to work, but still a bit of a hot mess. I was getting worried that I wouldn’t be able to race on Sunday, but I just stayed positive. By Friday and Saturday, I still had symptoms but they were manageable. When I heard that Chrissie Wellington dropped out of Kona because of a cold, I thought maybe I should do the same. But I realized how detrimental a cold would be for a professional athlete and at an Ironman race. I knew my race would be hard, but I finally decided I would just go for it and deal with the consequences later (potentially getting even more sick).
In addition to being sick, I was a little concerned about my nutrition. I knew this race would take me at least 3 to 4 hours to complete and I had never done a triathlon for that long before. About two weeks before I asked Nancy (club member and Ironman athlete, also does a lot of longer distance stuff) what I would need. She knew I would need some kind of substance, like a clif bar, and a few gels and of course lots of water. I took her advice, more on that later.
Sunday morning I woke up at 4:30AM, last bite of food was in my mouth by 5AM. I made sure to have a pretty good size breakfast, since at Nautica I didn’t eat enough and right before the race I was starving. We got to the race site at 6:15ish and parked, got all our stuff together and headed over to transition. Sport Chalet was the premier sponsor for this race and New Balance was the presenting sponsor. They were out in full force and they even had an area for athletes if you were wearing New Balance shoes. This area included dedicated porta potties and some food items (coffee!). It just so happens that I run in New Balance, so I had access to all this goodness! It was so nice being treated like a VIP…I could get used to it. Also, Sport Chalet has really stepped up their game in terms of Triathlon gear. Would I go to it now for things? No…but it is good for the beginner athlete that doesn’t know a thing about triathlons and needs all the basics.
The race was pretty small, so transition was manageable. I found a nice little place to rack my bike and got set up. There were about 40 women that competed in the Olympic distance, a small showing, but it was a tough race and not one for the faint of heart. At 7am the long distance folks headed off around 730 we headed down to the beach. Got in the water (a nice 68 degrees) and got acclimated. By 7:45 we were at the beach start and they gave us a few instructions on the swim. By 8am the buoys had been reset and the 1st of 4 waves were off. George was in that first wave, so I made sure to give him a good luck kiss and off he went. Then the 2nd wave went off, then it was all the women in the 3rd wave all 3 minutes apart. There was one more wave behind the women, and that was the race.
So off the women went in the 3rd wave, and I was right along with them! We got into the water and started swimming. The first few meters were fine, but then we started getting into this part of the lake that had a mini under water forest. I started to get a little freaked out and then I got a lot freaked out when I got tangled up in this stringy mesh kelp kind of thing and it felt like it was attacking me and I really didn’t want this to be the end of the race so I swam to the side and got out of it! Major panic attack! I kept going and it really felt like I would never get to that first buoy. I finally did and turned and from that point on I just swam. I hardly stopped, just focused on what Alex and Amanda over at Formula H2o had been telling me (head down, maximize stroke, grab a lot of water, etc.) and swam the rest of the way. The arch on the beach felt like it was closer than it really was, I caught up to some people in the 2nd wave and eventually caught up to people even in the first wave and out of the water I went up the hill to transition.
T-1 was fairly uneventful, I took my time and got everything together. I wore cycling gloves for this race because I knew I would be out on the bike for a while. So had to struggle to get those on… before the race I had loaded up my bento box with 3 gels and a mini clif bar. I had 2 bottles of water (1 water & 1 HEED). Got everything on, and started to run out. Heard Lisa and another PTCer cheering me on, I distinctly remember Lisa because of her cowbell! Then off I went on the bike…
Oh, the bike…where do I start…well, here is the elevation chart –
A couple weeks before the race they announced that they were able to have one transition area at Castaic Lake, no more point to point. While that is very convenient….they had to update the bike course and they came up with that little doozy. Overall it was 4,000 feet of climbing over 24 miles and it was killer. The first 7 miles are up hill (around a 4-5% grade) then you drop down 4 miles, only to come up that 4 miles (around a 7-8% grade, sometimes maxing out at 13%) then drop down another 1.5 miles and come back up that. The first 7 mile climb felt pretty good, and went by pretty quickly. At about 4 miles in I started to feel this weird feeling in my glute, I should preface this by saying that I never get cramps, well…it at some point I realized it was more than just a funny feeling…it was a cramp. Got off, stretched a bit, got back on and kept going. Was fine for the rest of the climb and dropped down the 4 mile descent. At this point, I knew that there wasn’t going to be any water until after this 4 mile climb. I had been rationing water up to this point and was a little concerned. I was hoping I would get a surprise and there would be water at the bottom of the 4 mile descent, but no go. So I had to do the climb with what I had. It was a very hot day and I really struggled to get through that climb. I needed more water and at that point I was very upset at the race organizers for not putting water at the bottom of that hill. I had to stop a number of times to stretch out my glute, at one point laying down on the ground to really get in a good stretch. I finally made it up that miserable hill and took my last little bit of water. I was completely out at this point, and the temperature must have been lingering around 85 – 90 degrees. I got to the bottom of the short decent where the aid station was a pulled up to 2 girls working the station. When I pulled up, I said I needed WATER (imagine someone crawling on the desert gasping for air) and they ran over and assisted me. One girl grabbed my bottle and filled it up with HEED, the other gave me a bottle that I chugged down. She also filled up my water bottle and gave me 4 endurolytes. I had a few on me, but I am glad she gave me the 4. I finally recovered a bit and left the aid station, completely grateful for those 2 volunteers. Climbed the last little hill and started my 7 mile descent back to transition. When I got to the top, I was so happy! I used some of my new water to put on my head and face, it felt amazing! At that moment, I was so happy to almost be done with the bike. Now I just had to get down safely. There were some viscous cross winds on some of the switch backs and I was getting tossed around. It was a little tricky, but I made it down safely.
T – 2 had even more cheering PTCers! Had my feet out of my shoes and made for an easy dismount. Ran through and got to my stuff. Reloaded my container with endurolytes, put the left over clif bar in my back pocket (took a bite on the bike ride) and another gel. I was out fairly quickly on my way to the run. Got to the first station and a little boy threw water on my back, awesome kid! The run, for the most part, was uneventful. Just so you know, it takes an hour and 30 minutes to walk a 10k. I was just surviving at this point and trying not to over do it. Through most of the race so far my cold hadn’t really been an issue. I felt some tightness in my chest on the bike, but by the time I got to the run is when it really kicked up. I would feel some tightness in my chest, cough a bit and hack up some lovelys. It was hot, I was using the water at each station to dunk myself. I had a bottle of water that I was using for drinking and just sort of jogged/walked most of it. It was 2 loops and a pretty decent run course, no complaints from me. There were a lot of people walking and everyone was just trying to be supportive. It was a tough run, but I managed through it.
A LONG time later….I was finally done! I don’t think times are really relevant for this course, unless you are super fast….I think it is more about completing it. It was challenging at all levels and I sure picked a hell of an Olympic to do as my first! (George too) Now, whatever Olympic race we do, we will PR. Overall, I did great on my nutrition and stayed pretty hydrated. I had 2 gels out on the bike and the 3rd on the run. When I was on the run I actually got a little hunger pain and remembered the rest of my clif bar and gobbled that down. So thanks Nancy for the great advice!
After the race we went to the quiet PTC tent and relaxed. I grabbed a couple of burritos from the VIP New Balance tent and shared with George…those got scarfed down. Jose gave us some nice watermelon and we relaxed for a bit. It was a little ironic, I was craving a soda and all they had were diet drinks. I was thinking to myself this is the LAST group you give diet drinks to, we need the sugar and the calories! Whoever went out and bought the drinks, FAIL.
I ended up placing 1st out of 2 for Athena…and if I would have raced my age group I would have placed 3rd. So either way I would have had a podium…but I wasn’t that excited about it because the group was so small.
George and I got home, showered, relaxed for a bit and then went to dinner. We had a dinner for champions, 2 big beers and a veggie pizza (add sausage and pepperoni! haha)
Everyone in the club did well, we all finished. It was a great race and well put together. I encourage more people to come out for it next year and really test yourself! Today i am very sore, stairs are my enemy and I am still sick. It is definitely in my chest now…just going to drink a lot of water and after work today…REST!